It’s that time of year, again. Time to start making travel plans and booking your summer vacation activities!
Children of all ages love going to amusement parks. And children of all abilities should have the opportunity to participate in their favorite rides and themed attractions!
To make your visit easier and more enjoyable, many amusement parks provide assistance for individuals with special needs.
Here’s a quick overview of 8 Amusement Parks that provide special assistance and services you may find useful as you plan your family vacation:
1. Walt Disney World (Orlando, FL)
Disney provides a Disability Access Service (DAS) Card which allows guests with disabilities to receive a return time for an attraction based on the current wait time so that individuals who would find it difficult to wait in the long lines that often accompany Disney rides. Learn more about the DAS Card here.
In addition, the park provides a number of different services to accommodate individuals with special needs, including cognitive, hearing, mobility, and visual disabilities. Disney also addresses light sensitivity, magnetic field affects, and special effect issues.
When preparing for your trip with a loved one with a cognitive disability, Disney recommends the following tips:
- Plan a Visual Schedule
- Watch Videos
- Study Location Maps
- Choose a Meeting Location
- Practice Waiting in Line
Visiting Disney? Learn more about all of their Services for Guests with Disabilities here.
2. Universal (Orlando, FL)
Universal offers a free Rider’s Guide for Rider Safety & Guests with Disabilities that describes each attraction’s restrictions and requirements in detail. Check out the guide here.
The park assists visitors with mobility restrictions, hearing and/or visual impairments, wheelchair rentals, family restrooms, and service animal-friendly policies, among other things.
Universal also provides the Attractions Assistance Pass (AAP) which is designed to accommodate guests who can’t wait in regular standby lines. Learn more about this pass and other aspects of Universal’s assistance programs here.
3. Busch Gardens (Tampa, FL)
Special access at Busch Gardens is designed to allow guests to enjoy the attractions without waiting in lines, if the guest is not able to do so as a result of his or her disability. Guests are placed in a Virtual Queue which equals the estimated wait time at that respective location. Guests have the ability to enjoy other attractions throughout the park during this time and then proceed to the specific attraction at the estimated time. Guests wishing to use Special Access must enroll in the park’s Ride Accessibility Program at Guest Relations (located at the Adventure Outpost).
4. Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH)
Cedar Point accommodates guests with disabilities through their Ride Admission Policy. The Ride Boarding Pass Program allows guests to access rides at specified times via the exit ramp in order to avoid crowds and waiting in the regular queue lines.
If requested at least one week in advance, Cedar Point will provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation at several of its shows and attractions. Learn more about this service here.
5. Kings Island (Mason, OH)
Kings Island developed a Boarding Pass Program which allows guests with mobility restrictions or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to access rides at specified times via the exit ramp in order to avoid crowds and waiting in the regular queue lines.
Guests who are in possession of a Boarding Pass will obtain a boarding or “ride” time on the Boarding Pass that is equal to the anticipated wait time for a particular ride from the ride associate at the Alternate Access Entrance (usually a ride’s exit). Guests can then choose to rest comfortably away from the queue area, visit a shop, see a show or play a game until their boarding time.
The park also provides a list of tips for before and during your visit intentionally developed to assist families with loved ones on the Autism Spectrum. Read more here.
6. Hershey Park (Hershey, PA)
Upon arrival to Hersheypark, the park invites guests to visit its Hospitality Services located inside the Front Gate, to enroll in their Ride Accessibility Program. Guests are asked to complete and sign the Ride Accessibility Questionnaire. To save time, download and complete the questionnaire prior to arriving at the park — then simply bring your completed questionnaire to Hospitality Services. The responses to that Questionnaire generate a Boarding Pass with a list of rides that guests can enjoy during their visit to the Park. The Boarding Pass will be linked to the enrolled guest with a photo taken the day of the visit.
Guests with mobility issues are welcome to utilize their own wheelchairs, but the park asks that all guests enroll in our Ride Accessibility Program to utilize the accessible entrances at our attractions.
7. Six Flags (Jackson, NJ)
Six Flags offers an Attraction Access Pass for guests who are unable to wait in ride lines due to a disability, mobility impairments, or certain qualifying impairments. Guests requesting use of one of these special passes must provide a doctor’s note at the Ride Information Center at the time they pick up the pass. Guests will only need this note the first time they request an Attraction Access Pass. Your doctor should include the following information:
- Doctor’s name
- Address of the doctor’s practice (Printed stationary is OK as long as it includes the Doctor’s medical ID number)
- Phone number of doctor’s practice (Printed stationary is OK as long as it includes the Doctor’s medical ID number)
- Name of person requesting the Attraction Access Pass
- Statement indicating the guest has a disability or other qualifying impairment under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or applicable state law that prevents the guest from waiting in a standard queue.
- Valid time period of disability (permanent or, if temporary, the valid time period the Pass is needed for)
- Doctor’s signature
- The note must NOT describe or indicate the nature of the disability.
8. SeaWorld (San Diego, CA)
SeaWorld provides an overview of services and facilities available for guests with disabilities. The guide is intended to supplement the park map, which contains additional park information and an entertainment schedule. You can download a PDF version of the guide here.
For additional information about SeaWorld Orlando’s accessibility, SeaWorld invites you to email Guest Correspondence at SEAguestcorrespondence@SeaWorld.com.
Additionally, SeaWorld provides a Ride Accessibility Questionnaire on their website which assists in finding rides and attractions personalized for your loved one with special needs.
So where are you headed this summer for some fun and adventure?
Whichever park you choose, make sure to PLAN AHEAD and TAKE ADVANTAGE of the many special services and programs specifically designed to make your family’s visit as easy and enjoyable as possible!
*Please Note: ENABLE Special Needs Planning, LLC, is in no way affiliated with any of the amusement parks mentioned in this post nor does ENABLE receive any monetary benefit from your engagement with any of the amusement parks mentioned in this post. We are simply sharing this information for your knowledge and potential enjoyment.